You can use a grant deed to transfer property ownership to another person in California, but it must meet the legal requirements for validity. While California law recognizes multiple deed types, a grant deed is often used to transfer property to a trust, another person, or a co-owner, or if the current owner legally changed names and wants the property in the new name.
Parties and Grant Wording
You must show the current owner and receiver. The current owner, also referred to as the transferor, is named first with wording that indicates a transfer, such as having the words "hereby grants to" immediately after the owner's name. The receiver is listed after the transfer wording, along with a statement of how the receiver will take ownership of the property. A receiver who will be a sole owner takes ownership as a single person, but two or more people can take ownership in different forms. For example, two unmarried people may take ownership as "joint tenants" or "tenants in common." A joint tenant's share of ownership passes to the other tenant at death, while the share belonging to a deceased tenant in common goes to that person's estate.
A property's legal description is its definition in words. While descriptions vary, it usually includes the property's city, town or village, along with other identifiers that have been used to describe it on prior deeds, such as a lot number shown on a map filed in the local land records. For example, some Sacramento property maps are referenced by a book and page number that corresponds to a document on file with the city. The description in a grant deed has to clearly distinguish the real estate from other properties.
Signature, Delivery and Acceptance
California requires that the transferor sign and deliver the grant deed with the receiver's acceptance of the property in most cases. A mentally incompetent or minor receiver isn't required to accept the deed. Delivery doesn't mean physically handing the deed over, but refers to the current owner's intention to transfer ownership immediately to the receiver. For example, if Jane makes a grant deed giving her home to Joe, but holds onto it until her death years later, she didn't intend to transfer ownership when she created the deed. Joe can't use it to claim he owns her house after she dies.
California doesn't require the inclusion of the date, or of money paid, or of a notarization of the transferor's signature on the grant deed, and a grant deed is valid even if it's not recorded in the local land records. Despite the lack of requirement, failing to include money paid, or to record the deed, or to have the tranferor's signature notarized may cause problems later. For example, if the transferor dies or becomes incompetent after making the deed, other relatives may challenge the signature if it isn't notarized. A receiver may not be able to get a mortgage on the property if the grant deed isn't recorded, because the lender requires a recorded deed.
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